Online Petition Demands Content Warnings for Sexual Violence in Weekly Shonen Jump
posted on by Kim Morrissy
A Change.Org petition titled "We Boys Are Not Wolves. Shonen Jump Should Distinguish Between 'Eroticism' and 'Sexual Violence'" concluded on Friday after collecting over 4,000 online signatures in just over a week. The campaign organizer, a man named Manabu Sekiguchi, demanded that Weekly Shonen Jump should include content warnings or explanatory notes in panels containing sexual violence. He also demanded for Jump to survey its readers about their level of sexual education in order to create expressions of sexuality that can be properly grasped by the audience.
In the campaign description, Sekiguchi shares his own story as a Weekly Shonen Jump reader. When he was in elementary school and middle school, he often read manga with sexual content like To Love-Ru. However, in university he met a male friend who did not read To Love-Ru, and he now retroactively understands why his friend found the content distasteful. Many of the sexual scenes depicted in the series are portrayed without mutual consent, and he now understands that it's not okay to look at a woman's body in a sexual way without regard for her feelings.
Sekiguchi also wrote about how when he was young, he often heard about Tokyo's "Nonexistent Youth" bill, which sought to restrict sexualized depictions of fictional underage characters. The bill was ultimately rejected by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in 2010, but Sekiguchi often heard oppositions to censorship from people around him. Fellow Jump readers claimed that people are perfectly capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. However, looking back, Sekiguchi claims that he was not capable of making the distinctions himself. He recounts a time from elementary school when a group of boys sexually harassed some girls, but he did not speak up because he thought "boys will be boys" and that it was just a natural thing. The leader of that group of boys was later expelled from high school because he secretly took photos of girls while they were bathing.
As an adult, Sekiguchi now believes that the non-consensual sexual elements in Jump manga were not created by people who clearly understood the difference between fantasy and reality, but rather that they are the manifestation of a general lack of sexual education in society.
"Personally speaking, I feel uncomfortable when I look at Jump these days and how it gleefully sells women's bodies as if they are livestock. Perhaps out of a belief that they won't be criticized if it's between girls, there are more manga these days which show girls sexually harassing other girls. I want Jump's editors to realize that, regardless of who is doing it, sexual acts performed without the consent of both parties is sexual violence that hurts people," he wrote.
Although he claims that he does not want manga to be written like education materials, he does argue that Jump manga these days "conditions" its readers to perceive female bodies as erotic, and that they also reinforce the idea that men are "wolves" who are invigorated by seeing a woman's sexual body parts. Finally, he argues that many of the female characters who are sexualized in manga are younger than high school age, and are therefore considered minors. Girls that young should not be sexualized.
The petition trended online several days ago. The Real Live news website reported that although some agree with Sekiguchi's argument, especially considering that Jump is read by children, others argue that the depictions of sexual violence are not endorsements, and that if sexual violence warrants content warnings or explanatory notes, then so should any other form of violence. Including notes for each and every potentially objectionable point would break the flow of the manga.
After concluding the campaign on Friday, Sekiguchi announced that he will send the petition to Shueisha.
Although not referenced directly, the petition comes in the wake of the recent act-age scandal; the sales and serialization of the manga were indefinitely suspended after series writer Tatsuya Matsuki was arrested on suspicion of committing an indecent act with a female middle school student. The magazine's lack of female editors in its over 50-year history has also been a point of concern in recent years.